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NEW YORK, NY – MAY 05: U.S. President Barack Obama (C) carries a wreath with New York Police Department officer Stephanie Moses (4th L), New York FIre Department firefighter Joseph Lapointe (5th R) and Port Authority Police Department officer John Adorno (4th R) during a wreath laying ceremony at Ground Zero on May 5, 2011 in New York City.
New York City has chosen to honor the memory of seven fallen heroes – firefighters who made the ultimate sacrifice on 9/11 – by naming the street that their fire station is on “Seven in Heaven Way.” Should this be a constitutional crisis?
As this street sign honoring the fire fighters’ sacrifice made its way through the approval process, no one complained. But now, after the sign’s unveiling, a group called New York City Atheists has threatened to file a lawsuit if it is not removed.
Because he has “concluded” that there is no heaven, the rest of us cannot recognize the ultimate sacrifice these brave first responders gave for our liberty with an honorary street sign that mentions the word “heaven” without handling a lawsuit?
Thankfully, the atheists have little chance of succeeding in court. As the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals recently stated, reaffirming Supreme Court precedent, mere “hurt feelings” do not give one standing to sue. America is replete with religious references in the naming of our cities, parks, and streets.
The president of American Atheists, David Silverman, chimed in by repeating the same tired arguments against the mention of anything with religious meaning by the government. Silverman said, “The attacks on 9/11 were an attack on America. They were an attack on our Constitution and breaking that Constitution to honor these firefighters is the wrong thing to do.” I challenge Silverman to cite any Supreme Court precedent to backup his claim that using “heaven” on a city sign violates our Constitution.
In America, heaven has come to symbolize the memory of those we love, our family members, and those who have made great sacrifices. Memorializing these heroic individuals in this way is not an act of religious divisiveness, but patriotic honor.
Publically attacking this tribute to seven American heroes, only to make a point that you do not believe in heaven, is insulting and outrageous.